Krista loves God. She invests in other people and her church. She’s intelligent, good looking, fun to be around, 25 years old. The other day, while standing on the sidewalk after church, I asked her how things were going.
She paused for a second, maybe deciding whether she’d get to the heart of it. I sharpened the question, “What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing these days.”
She paused. “Honestly,” she began, “Meeting a good guy. Every week I sit in a row of six women my age. We keep looking for the row of six guys our age—guys who love the Lord. Regular guys. Good guys.”
I knew what she meant. I’d had the discussion before. In fact, I’d had the discussion just the afternoon before with Liz, another single woman in our church. They think there’s a shortage of good guys to date. Anyone want to argue?
I think both of them were bouncing off a sermon I’d recently preached on marriage, listing five ways to braid the resilience and life of Christ into a marriage. With each point, I spoke not only to the married couples, but I gave single people some things to think about as they search for someone to spend a life with.
(For those of you wondering what this has to do with youth ministry—hang on, we’ll get there.)
Five Ways to Braid Christ into Your Marriage
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (TNIV)
The most famous passage of scripture about marriage starts with the concept of reverence for Christ and the impact it should have on the me-first attitude. I gave singles looking for a mate these questions:
- Is the person you’re interested in submitted to Christ?
- Does she treat you and others differently because of her reverence for Christ?
- For that matter, do you ever see him go against his natural inclinations—particularly in the area of sexuality—because he is a follower of Jesus?
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6 (TNIV)
Jesus’ understanding of marriage was that God married a man and a woman for a lifetime. But all around us, that is being challenged. I called the married couples to reaffirm the lifetime commitment they made at the altar. Here are some questions I gave the singles:
- Does the person you’re interested in know how to say something and mean it?
- Does he make few promises, but keep the ones he makes?
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way… 1 Peter 3:7a (NASB)
No one is exactly the same as anyone else and this is true with married couples. In fact, the lifetime commitment of marriage and the proximity of living closely actually accentuates the differences. I challenged the married couples to acknowledge that this is natural and work to really understand their spouses. I said that they should become experts in what makes the other tick. I gave this question to the people like Liz and Krista:
- Does the person you’re interested in ask you questions about you, your thoughts, your feelings, your goals, your family… (you get the picture) or is she mostly interested in herself?
use your words to build
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (TNIV)
Could there be a more helpful instruction in the Bible? Words are the fabric of relationships. Healthy couples give a lot of thought to the impact of their words. Paul says they can be destructive and unwholesome, or they can be uplifting and upbuilding. I want my wife to be stronger every day because of the way I speak to her. Here’s something to ask yourself as you consider marrying someone:
- Are you left stronger (in intellect, spirit, self-understanding, humor, ability, worldview) by talking repeatedly with the person you’re interested in?
- Are you a better person now because you’ve known this person for a considerable time?
- Do you come away from conversations with this person feeling better or worse about yourself?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22 (TNIV)
Any relationship will struggle at times. Healthy marriages are self-healing because the couple has learned to treat wrongs as the opportunity to demonstrate Christlike forgiveness to one another. And in doing so, they grow stronger and often grow less likely to hurt one another.
- Does the person you’re interested in bring up your flaws or missteps often, even after you thought they were settled?
- Is she able to genuinely give you a new start after you’ve done something wrong?
- Are you motivated to be a better person by the grace shown to you by the person you’re interested in?
What does any of this have to do with youth ministry?
Krista and Liz both had a bittersweet appreciation for my sermon. They agreed with it on the one hand, but were frustrated by it on the other.
It’s hard enough finding a decent guy who is interested in you, not awkward, not passive, not selfish, not clingy, not disrespectful of your faith and values. But I had narrowed the field.
And I understood. After hearing them out, I gave each of them a couple of practical ideas. But it got me thinking. If the church is not producing young adults like I described in my sermon, what could be done?
Where in the world would the next decade’s singles find someone committed to Christ and who treats the person they’re dating well because of it? Where are they going to find guys who make strong promises and keep them no matter what? Where are they going to find guys who are confident and curious enough to put effort into understanding them? Where are they going to find guys who know how to have a good conversation and how to leave their girlfriends stronger than when they met them? Where were they going to find that row of six guys so touched by grace that forgiveness comes easily and often?
They’ll find them coming out of our youth groups.
Youth leaders: what if you took this list as a challenge? What if, by the time our kids graduated, they would be more mature spiritually AND relationally. How would that change your programming and teaching? What would have to change for your group to become known for producing good guys? And good women too.
- Good Guys. - August 22, 2012
Mark – I really think this is so true. One thing I really respect about the youth leaders in the Vineyard that I’ve been around is their desire to be proactive about discussing topics of dating, purity, and relationships. For me, though, as I read your article I began to wonder how often I focus mostly on the “do not’s” and not as much on the “do’s.” What a great idea to really talk about how to treat someone, how to prefer them, how to love them. Thanks for the insight!